Stepping off the train in Manchester at around 9pm on a Friday night is a pretty wonderful thing. Piccadilly Station is rammed, the city is buzzing with people ready for their nights out and there's something in the air that spells mischief and magic.
Every September and October, Manchester changes into a different beast. Fans of electronic music gather round from all corners of the country to be a part of The Warehouse Project.
The seasonal extravaganza has been rocking MCR for over 10 years and when those line-ups drop every summer, tickets sell out, jaws drop and anticipation builds.
Fresh from releasing their critically acclaimed new album, LCD Soundsystem opened proceedings last week, but the opening weekend is where WHP comes to life and we braved both nights to bring you the sets that rocked Store Street's legendary foundations.
Welcome to the warehouse.
Friday night of the opening weekend was a tech-house affair, in fact, it was a naughty tech-house affair if we're being honest. The likes of Solardo, Patrick Topping, Eats Everything and De La Swing appeared across three rooms and naturally the event sold-out sharpish.
The first thing we noticed were the queues to get in and they were nothing short of mammoth. Spiralling all the way around the block, final entry was at 9.30pm so people had no choice but to get there early. Once in, congestion was at its highest of the weekend. It was at points, unbearably busy, but as is the nature of an opening night, we soldiered on and made out way over to room 2 to catch Geordie hotshot Jacky.
It was to be his debut performance at the WHP so we were expecting the young gun to bring out all the stops. His intro was half genius, mainly absurd and we were questioning whether it was actually happening. It was happening.
A mashup of 'Right Here, Right Now' by Fatboy Slim and 'Live Forever' by Oasis had the room cheering, singing along and grinning ear-to-ear. You can't really go wrong with a bit of Oasis in Manchester, can you? Of course some were pretty bemused and others confounded but generally, it went down.
Enter a booming tech-house track mixed out of the back and there's an opening to a set we won't forget anytime soon. It takes guts to roll something like that out when you open your WHP account. Fair one.
The Martinez Brothers
Largely, the music of the night was pretty solid along the tech-house line. Patrick Topping and Richy Ahmed played back-to-back in the main room and put forward some welcome variety but for us, it was always going to be about the last two sets in Room One.
Everyone's favourite siblings from the Bronx, The Martinez Brothers, were our pick of the bunch going in and it didn't take them long to establish their quintessential bumping house in the main hall. At this point it was still alarmingly busy but by now, we'd accepted our fate; we were going to have to get stuck in and get in and among it.
Because of the frequency of their gigs and the varying locations, you never quite know what style of Martinez Brothers set you're going to get. That's no bad thing though and they opted for stripped back, percussion-led weapons with a pace that only they know how to set. It was all about the groove and it was one of the best sets we've seen them play in ages.
Their freakishly drum-laced collaboration with Miss Kittin had us stomping with pride, which worked in our favour as we actually managed to create some room for ourselves. Naughty, but nice.
Bristol's finest, Eats Everything is one of our favourites. In fact, he's everyone's favourite and his set at the WHP opening was a special, if not slightly-concerning occasion.
Before the party, he tweeted that it would be the first time he's ever closed out Room 1 and his only appearance at Store Street. That's special, right? He also said that "movement may be hindered because my back is fucked". That's slightly worrying, right?
Luckily his back held out and he took over right where the Martinez Brothers left off. The pace remained furious and the room packed. If anything the vibe of the set focused on the more fun aspects of house than the set before and he drew for remixes of classics like the Wax Worx edit of 'Dominator'.
This was his first tune of the set and a clear statement of intent.
As far as closing sets go, this one banged but it was always going to, wasn't it? Friday night was a vibe although Saturday night had us really fucking excited.
The contrast in queues between Saturday and Sunday nights was pretty staggering. In fact, there was almost no queue when we arrived at about 10pm. The music started at 6pm on the second day so people had entered Store Street way earlier for their session under the tracks. For us, and almost any dance music fan who'd laid eyes on it, the line-up for day two of the opening weekend was something of a dream.
Dance music's hottest tickets combined with the freshest faces of the underground joined together for a holy matrimony of beats. We caught the end of Job Jobse's packed out Room 1 set and although we didn't think they could really cram anyone else into the main zone, they did.
Dance music's hottest duo and current Mixmag cover stars, Bicep, were arguably the most popular choice across the whole night. Their transition from hotshot duo to worldwide recording artists has been unstoppable and off the back of their incredibly-well received debut album, we were keen to see our boys in action.
Their broken-beat style of emotive, yet heavy-hitting electronic music has been serving them well over the last few years and dropping Lanark Artefax's impossibly good 'Touch Absence' via the WHP system was a touch of brilliance. Feel My Bicep? You fucking bet we do.
After another one of those intense walk throughs to get to Room 2 we managed to catch the end of Hotflush's newest talent Or:la (her third time at WHP) and we weren't disappointed. After her b2b session with Scuba in the Lab LDN, we knew she was talented, here she further cemented her position as an artist firmly on the up.
Following on from Or:la was the supremely talented Peggy Gou, someone whose profile has seen a huge rise over the last two years and the hype is fully justified. Her quick, on-point mixing and party-fuelling track selection had the whole crowd moving.
Of course, no Peggy Gou set would be complete without the raising of some shoes (we counted seven in total) and the early rinsing out of Shan's 'Work It' (Rave Beats) had Converse kicks in the air quicker than you can say wet foot.
A fan favourite and for good reason.
We hadn't really spent much time in Room 3 across both days. The smallest of the three spaces was tucked at the back of the venue and although the soundsystem was large it didn't really fill out or reach its potential unless the act was heavy enough. Enter Mall Grab.
Our recent cover star and Australian rising talent, Mall Grab has, very quickly, become a star. His no-nonsense style of mixing has also won him plaudits across the board. He'll literally play anything the fuck he wants, when he wants, how he wants. His set in the third room was the busiest across both days and boy did he know it.
'Pool Party Music', his dancefloor crushing Hot Haus Records release, always gets dancers riled up and potentially got the biggest reaction of his set, but we thought we'd highlight a few other, curveball stompers instead. Randomer's razor-edged 'Huh' hit the spot but it was another former cover star's XL Recordings release that had us completely gassed.
Novelist's collaboration with Mumdance, '1 Sec', was a welcome break from the 4/4 and perfectly demonstrated Mall Grab's attitude towards playing. If it bangs, it gets played. Simple yet effective. Considering he was given the unenviable task of clashing directly with Ricardo Villalobos b2b Raresh in the main room, he did an amazing job of not only filling his space but keeping it full and commanding a crowd with such ease.
Ricardo Villalobos b2b Raresh
This was the big one. The one we were most excited about. The pump of the Room One soundsytem, the majesty of the space, the pairing of two of electronic music's most lauded selectors. Fuck.
Ricardo Villalobos back-to-back Raresh gave us everything we wanted and more. With Ricardo, there's no telling which direction he's going to take, what mood he's in or whether he's swaying towards weirding you out or rolling the bangers. When he plays with Raresh though, the Romanian always seems to balance it out. Even if Ricardo plays something trippy and obscure, he complements it with more tempo, constant kicks or a flurry of percussion.
They worked extremely well in unison with both acts on top form. The booth and stage area was filled with friends of the DJs (all of whom were spotted hugging and dancing with duo as they played) and also the majority of the other selectors who were billed. Ben UFO, Job Jobse, Tom Trago, Seth Troxler and Peggy Gou were all in attendance and they wouldn't have been disappointed either.
Villalobos' sprawling 'What You Say Is More Than I Can Say' offered both weirdness and danceability and the mix coming out of it from Raresh was a work of art. We're talking five minute blend, minimum. Two kings of the game.
After Ricardo and Raresh, we switched back to Room Two quickly for Ben UFO. There's no denying how far he's come over the last few years either and it's been a joy to watch. Ben was responsible for one of the best sets ever on the Dekmantel main stage and following that, we're pretty much going to check him at every opportunity now. Not that we didn't already.
His heady-blend of UK rave classics, mutant bass, rolling house and thrashing techno means its impossible to pin-point a route he'll take but that makes for more-than interesting clubbing.
'Theme From Q' by Objekt understandably banged its way around the room but Pangaea's remix of 'Devotion' not only nods towards his fellow Hessle Audio brother, it also sends the crowd into a state of uncontrollable Euphoria. The vocal, the drums and those dream-like pads combine to produce dancefloor gold and it was weaved like a pro by Ben UFO.
Although it was always bound to happen, a lot of high profile clashes appeared across the night so locking into one whole set meant missing another potential highlight. We skipped across from Ben over to see Seth Troxler and it was a decision that we'll be happy with for the foreseeable future.
The charm of Troxler is undeniable and the crowd he attracts shows it. It's one of the most enjoyable sets of the night, if not our favourite. The stark beats of Ricardo and Raresh meant that Seth could come out the other side and play a mix of house and techno that wasn't ashamed to be happier, it embraced the fun and ran with it.
He danced joyously as he rolled out a couple of new cuts from his upcoming releases alongside rolling house jams that kept the energy levels high. For someone in the game as long as Seth to still be capturing the imagination of audiences is impressive but he does so effortlessly.
Alterted Native's frenzied cut 'Dominator' was our favourite tune but you could have picked any of the tunes he played, they all made us very happy.
Midland is another one of our favourites in the office and he's on an unstoppable hot streak right now as wel. He's just released the latest in the fabric mix series and celebrated the night before his WHP set with the party at the London institute. He played two sets there and then headed over to MCR to keep that ball rolling.
He's also managed to put out yet another summer smash via his Re:Graded label, this time from Gerd Janson and Shan, in the form of 'Surrender'. Literally, Midland can do no wrong.
His performance at Warehouse Project marked the end of the night in Room 2 and despite Ben Klock rolling out his thunderous techno in in the main room, Midland had a captivated audience in front of him till the end.
As the finale rolled through, we were pretty exhausted after two days of music but it has to be said that there wasn't a bad tune or duff mix throughout the whole of Saturday's proceedings. We were welcomed to the warehouse in style and we'll be back again soon.
Funster is Mixmag's Deputy Digital Editor, follow him on Twitter